Contributed by: Phil Worrall
Executive Director, Indiana Geographic Information Council, Inc.

In 2012 Jim Sparks, Kevin Mickey and I were discussing over drinks [coffee not beer] our disappointment over the lack of effective National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) programs to develop key framework data layers at a state and national scale. During this same period of time, with no budget and no permanent funding, Indiana had been very successful in our own State Spatial Data Infrastructure (SSDI) efforts. Why? To simplify, we will chalk up Indiana’s success to Hoosier Hospitality.

Fantastic World of Fables, Copyright 2013 Wabush

A few Indiana examples: The IndianaMap and Indiana Spatial Data Portal were built with over 260 layers of statewide geospatial data freely available, our 2005 statewide orthophotography and 2011-2013 Ortho-LiDAR projects, our County Data Sharing Initiative, our Local-Resolution NHD development project, and our Broadband Mapping program. Looking at Indiana's success we recognized that we had a story worth sharing, and we also saw key pieces of the puzzle that we could identify [morals to the story] as best practices / lessons-leaned from a number of previous, current and planned state and national efforts that we could document and share.

We also conjured the notion that a strong NSDI would make our jobs easier here in Indiana. We wanted to see Federal Agencies stop using our tax dollars to build redundant and closed geospatial silos of framework data layers. We wanted to see the “Build-Once, Use Many Times” model of the IndianaMap show the way. We wanted to see Federal Agencies become true partners in NSDI initiatives by not only sharing their standards, management, technology, data warehousing and distribution - like we do every day, but also their money. With Federal Agencies as true financial partners we believe the problem of inadequate geospatial data development funding for national initiatives can be solved simply by pooling and reallocating a portion of the existing budgets to go directly to the data producers and stewards wherever they exists at the Local, State or Federal level for each of the framework data layers.

NSDI Funding.jpg

Each framework layer has to be evaluated separately by looking at a "Federal Government->State Government ->Private Industry->Local Government" partnership model and workflow that best fits the data. There are three basic workflows that we have successfully used here in Indiana - we just need a larger Federal contribution/partnership in the first two to make them work perfectly. In each of these models the State serves at the “Middleware” (to use a software term) to make it all work and flow up and down the stack.

1. Top-Down: (Ortho, LiDAR). Federal structured and funded program and nation-wide contracts in place. Feds partner with States for support and coordination within their geography. States serve as liaisons with agency/local/regional governments for state government financial contributions, local/regional buy-ups, quality control, data distribution, and local support.

2. Bottom-Up: (Addresses, Parcels, Centerlines, Jurisdictional Boundaries). In most of the 50 states, Locals governments are the authority for these layers, and in the others the States are. A bottom-up approach with federal and local funds pooled to support the creation and maintenance at the local levels, with support at the state level for data roll-up, cleanup, and improvement (State effort with private industry support), followed by State roll-up of data to the different Federal Agencies for their specific uses.

3. Middle-Out: (NHD, Broadband). States serve as Stewards for statewide data development, maintenance and management (working with private industry). Feds provide technical and financial support to states, and locals provide local knowledge to state to help build the data, perform quality control and maintain the data.

Based on this thinking we collaborated to write the following paper to describe this model and to identify the existing best practices to make it work:


Just this week the new URISA GIS Management Institute (GMI) published our paper on their web site. GMI plans to occasionally publish GIS discussion papers on their site to stimulate thought and open discussion about issues related to GIS management that are important to the GIS community We are very pleased to be the first paper that GMI has published, and we look forward to the discussion.

Link to the URISA GMI Home page:

Direct link to our paper:

The moral[s] of our Geospatial Fable are documented throughout the paper, but it’s still to be determined if we can successfully piece them together at the national level. Until then – we will keep on moving forward in Indiana!